Saturday, December 31, 2016

Strange Familiars Podcast

Sorry for the sparse posting here lately - besides the general rush the of winter holidays, I've started a new project on the paranormal / folklore front:

Strange Familiars podcast will be covering a range of topics from the paranormal, folklore, cryptids, ghosts, and more. We are attempting something different with this podcast - while we will be interviewing guests and the like, our approach is something more akin to audio documentary. We're working on the first episodes now... Hopefully we'll be premiering this month.

So, stay tuned!

I've also been working on my second and third books - both of which require a lot of research. So, I AM writing and working on things relative to Seekers investigations, but nothing that can be published here on the blog just yet.

If you enjoyed Beyond the Seventh Gate I think you will enjoy both The Strange Familiars podcast and my next books.

More soon!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Where Did the Road Go Radio

My appearance on 'Where Did the Road Go' radio discussing my book Beyond the Seventh Gate and other strange things from South Central Pennsylvania ...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Ghost Roads II: The Yin Yang Skulls

Remaining in York County, our next abandoned/closed/forgotten roads come from Codorus State Park.

Codorus State Park is a 3,500 acre park that encompasses Lake Marburg and its 26 miles of shoreline.     Lake Marburg is not a natural lake, but the result of a paper company damming one branch of Codorus Creek in the 1960s. The result was a huge manmade lake, and an underwater ghost town. The former village of Marburg lies sunken beneath the lake, the ruins sometimes still visible when the water level is low.

Where there was a village, there must have been roads that lead to and from said village, right? Most definitely.

There is an easy hike on a ghost road on the west side of the park.

This relatively straight road is now a wide, well maintained trail. Banks of trees and brush flank each side, with the occasional side trail running in either direction. The occasional rabbit and plenty of birds keep me company along the way. I followed this ghost road until the end and was rewarded with the sight of a fine old Quaker meeting house accompanied by an aged graveyard.

This is the Wildasin Meeting House - built in 1841, though people were being buried here as early as 1782.

A small window in the foundation of the meeting house.

There are some great old tombstones here - very old, hand carved, with German text.

Some years back I found a witch bottle on one of the graves in this cemetery. 

Moving to the southwest side of the park, I went to the location of an old iron furnace. The Mary Ann Furnace was the oldest iron forge west of the Susquehanna River - it was in operation during the Revolutionary War. Here they manufactured cannons, cannon balls, and grapeshot for the Continental Army. The Mary Ann Furnace is no longer standing, and I've yet to locate exactly where it stood - though I have a good idea where to look - but there is a trail here that bears its name. It is worth the time to explore. 

I have, as yet, been unable to find a ghost story or mystery light/UFO sighting in the area of Mary Ann Furnace. I am certain they exist however, as these things seem drawn to these old forges. I have collected bigfoot sightings from close to its location - as well as from the area of the mines east of Codorus State Park, where much of the iron ore for Mary Ann Furnace was obtained. (If you know of any strange tales associated with Mary Ann Furnace or Codorus State Park, please contact me!)

Following the Mary Ann Furnace Trail, I came upon this little ghost road:

A small stretch that disappears quickly into the woods ... Where did it start and where did it end? It's like a fading memory of a road; one last piece slowly being swallowed by the landscape.

On the southeast side, what is now Landis Road dead ends at the park. But if you follow it through the parking lot, it becomes obvious that this road once ran directly through the park. I do not know if it was called Landis Road in the time this road was in use, but now a ghost road extends from the parking area into the woods. 

A short way into the trees there steps on the southwest bank...

These lead to another old cemetery, known variously as Old Wildasin Cemetery and Manheim Union Burial Ground.

Here the tombstones lie broken around a central (newer) monument with the names of all those interred herein. There used to be a church associated with this cemetery, but it too is long gone. 

Down the steps and back onto the ghost road, I followed it out toward the lake.

This road goes through the lake!

I followed the banks of the lake around until I found where the road rose up on the far bank.

The road then makes a turn and heads back into the trees.

The cemetery on the other side is still maintained (mowed, at least) so the road on that side of the lake is still in relatively good condition. Here the road seems to crumble away. It's still there, and it's in far better shape than Toad Road, for example, but nature is taking it back from man. It feels stranger on this side. More lonesome and forgotten. 

I had never followed this road to its end, so I decided to see it through. It was indeed a lonesome hike through this section, a bit eerie as my own footsteps on the fallen leaves were the only sound.

I believe this ghost road dead-ended at this spot. It is hard to tell from the photo, but there is a large mound here. These were sometimes placed on rural roads at dead ends and turnarounds.

As I glanced over the mound, something white caught my eyes. Moving closer, I saw a deer skull. Then I noticed something very strange. Sitting next to this white, sun-bleached skull was another: this one black and weathered. Sister skulls sitting there like some strange yin yang symbol.

This is as I found them:

I began to look around me and soon noticed bones everywhere:

I had walked into some sort of bone pile. I can not say the reason for this. Hunters seems unlikely, for there seems to be bones from multiple animals (mostly deer). Perhaps this is where, long ago, the now-flooded village of Marburg dumped their roadkill? An odd end at the end of an odd road.

On the return hike I followed another ghost road - this one is now but a short side trail off of the road I followed to the bone pile. The DCNR "Road Closed" sign was the most interesting part ... but then again it would be hard to top the yin yang skulls.

I have obtained a 1922 topographical map which shows the roads through the park but, unfortunately, not the names of those roads. Neither does it tell any legends or spook tales associated with the roads or the submerged Marburg village. For those, I will keep searching.

More ghost roads to come...

For the first part of this series click here.

For more tales of ghosts, cryptids, and other strangeness in South Central Pennsylvania, see Beyond the Seventh Gate.

If you have had a strange experience or if you've seen something weird - in South Central Pennsylvania or further abroad - please email and tell me your story.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Beyond Reality Radio

I will be on Beyond Reality Radio Thursday November 10, 2016  a little after midnight (so, technically 11/11 on the East Coast ) discussing my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate and other strange things in South Central Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ghost Roads I: Toad Road

When I was on Coast to Coast AM to talk about Beyond the Seventh Gate and other strange things in South Central Pennsylvania, George Noory asked me what is the deal with all of the closed/abandoned roads in the area. I guess I hadn't thought much about it before his question... roads are closed for various reasons... but as George said to me - roads go SOMEWHERE.

When you close a road, you are closing access to something. The act of doing this has symbolic repercussions at the very least. It's no wonder that so many of these roads begin to become associated with spookiness and the paranormal.  I have started to photograph these ghost roads - as I hike them; as they become lost to time, tangled weeds, and twisting branches. Recently, the mysterious Skinwalker Ranch has again been in the news for a public road through the ranch, once closed, has been ordered re-opened. It may not be open for long as lawyers representing the property are acting quickly to close the road.

For now, let's start closer to (my) home with the mysterious Toad Road - a location with so much paranormal activity that I sometimes wonder if it isn't our own Skinwalker Ranch right here in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, almost everything reported about Toad Road ranges from complete fiction to exaggerated urban legend based on scattered and misremembered facts.

I go over all of this with detail in Beyond the Seventh Gate but in short: There was no "insane asylum" or hospital of any sort located on or near Toad Road. So, there are no ruins of said asylum or hospital after it supposedly burned on or near Toad Road. There was no "mad doctor" who kept patients in his "mansion" on or near Toad Road. Toad Road is not "8-9 miles long" as some folks have stated. There are not seven gates to Hell or anywhere else on Toad Road. If you want details and history, read the book please.

What Toad Road does have is many, many witness reports of strange activity - almost none of these reports have anything to do with ghosts of insane asylum victims (though they are attributed to those ghosts because that is the popular story). What people report most often are screams from the woods, being stalked or paced in the woods, black dogs, or dog headed things, orbs and strange lights in the woods, etc... all of these reports sound more like cryptid activity than ghosts and I believe it is cryptid activity which many people experience on Toad Road - and often attribute this strangeness to "ghosts". In the book, I even tell of one newspaper story I found of a man sent to the hospital by a hairy "monster" in the area of Toad Road. I am still collecting stories of any paranormal activity on or near Toad Road - so if you or anyone you know has any stories they would like to tell me, please get in touch.

So, where is Toad Road ... it's a stretch of formerly-public road in York County, PA. Please do not go there - the local property owners do not want people legend-tripping all over their property - you're not going to find any Gates to Hell there - or any abandoned asylums/mansions - and chances are you're not going to run into any cryptids, so leave the place and the local people in peace please.

Toad Road - and there seems to be some disagreement as to whether it was ever officially named Toad Road or it was just a local nickname - but I assert it WAS officially named Toad Road based on my research. I think the Township would rather people forget about the place so even on their official website they state there was no Toad Road. There was - whether it bore the name officially or not it was known as Toad Road to locals. It was a stretch of road that appears on maps as far back as the early 1800s - possibly before. It basically tracked along the Codorus Creek and, at one time (pre-1945) lead to and around Codorus Furnace - a Revolutionary War era iron forge. (for more on cryptids, the paranormal, and iron forges see my earlier post on the subject ... I also have prints of my Codorus Furnace illustration available)

Toad Road pre-1945
Toad Road was a stretch of road which originally connected Trout Run Road and River Farm Road. Pre-1945 Furnace Road stopped at Toad Road - sometime later the roads were changed and Toad Road stopped at Furnace Road - right as it makes a sharp turn at the creek. Actually, pre-1945 all of Trout Run Road, Toad Road and River Farm Road was designated as "T945" on maps - so perhaps it was all Toad Road. It's hard to say. The stretch of Toad Road which is now closed (between Trout Run Rd and Furnace Rd) is only about 1.5-1.75 miles long. The road was closed after Hurricane Agnes in 1972 when it was washed out and never reopened.

If you would walk Toad Road today, you would be greeted at one end by a gate: not a gate to Hell, but an unremarkable gate as such you will find on farms across rural America. In fact, the only remarkable thing about this gate is the number of "No Trespassing" signs posted on it.

The road has been taken back by Nature. Notice the trees across the path/road. There are many, many of these along the way. Some attribute such 'road blocks' to bigfoot creatures.

In places, you can see where the road once was... in others, it is hard to even find the path now.

What once was a road is but a muddy path...

Which makes its way along the banks of the rushing Codorus Creek...

And crosses the Trout Run...

Leading, eventually to some rocks with fading graffiti from long ago.

Besides the " '73" showing the age of the grafitti, this boulder has the remnants of reflective road sign material on the other side - a crumbling caution to pre-1972 drivers.

The path gets thicker with weeds and harder to navigate as you get closer to Furnace Road.

If you don't get lost, you can find your way to Furnace Road, close to Codorus Furnace. Ruins of an old flint mill can be seen along the bank. This section of Furnace Road would have been part of Toad Road pre-1945.

The road then passes Codorus Furnace itself:

Roads do indeed go SOMEWHERE, sowhere did Toad Road lead? It lead to Codorus Furnace, almost certainly. Strangeness follows Codorus Creek (as it does many creeks and rivers) - and strangeness seems drawn to these old iron forges. 

In all my photographs on Toad Road I did find one weird thing. I do not know what it is - pareidolia, or something else? 

More Ghost Roads to come...

For more information on Toad Road see Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Click here for part two of the Ghost Roads series.

If you have had a strange experience or if you've seen something weird - in South Central Pennsylvania or further abroad - please email.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Cryptid Creatures of South Central PA, Part IV: Old Red Eyes

'Old Red Eyes' illustration by Timothy Renner - all rights reserved.

Mothman is an entity first made popular by John Keel in The Mothman Prophecies, his excellent book detailing paranormal activity that centered around Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the 1960s, culminating in the disastrous Silver Bridge collapse in 1967. Besides UFOs, men in black, and other cryptid creatures, many witnesses reported seeing a strange winged thing. The Mothman was described as a roughly man-sized upright creature with huge bat-like wings, no discernible neck, and glowing red eyes.  Sometimes Mothman is described as almost machine-like, other times as more like a living creature, and sometimes as a shadowy thing that seems to shift between worlds. Keel, along with an army of researchers that followed him, has done an excellent job detailing the Point Pleasant Mothman cases. If you haven't read The Mothman Prophecies , most definitely start with that volume (skip the film of the same name) - but there are many other books and websites sharing information and theories about the Point Pleasant Mothman sightings. These sightings were not, after all, in South Central Pennsylvania ... so, I'll leave the West Virginia Mothman history to others.

That said, Mothman - or Mothman-like creatures - have been reported across the world. Often seen preceding or during grave disasters - outside of the Twin Towers on 9/11 and above the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant cooling towers, for instance. Here in South Central PA we have had ongoing sightings of a Mothman-like creature centered around an area called the Forks - where the Little Conewago stream meets the Conewago Creek, just north of New Oxford, PA in Adams County.

First reported by Lon Strickler at Phantoms and Monsters, he named the creature The Conewago Phantom but locals have been referring to the screaming red-eyed monster as Old Red Eyes. Lon himself was a witness to the creature in 1988 when he and some friends camped at the Forks to investigate strange crying sounds heard from the woods in the area. You can read Lon's full account here

Multiple other sightings have been reported since (the majority by Lon / Phantoms and Monsters) - from simple reports of glowing red eyes staring from the trees or terrible screams issuing from the woods, to boy scouts at Camp Conewago witnessing a 6-ft tall winged "dragon". Other folks have seen winged creatures by the roadside nearby. Perhaps most disturbing of all given the Silver Bridge disaster: one witness even saw Old Red Eyes flying over the bridge on Route 394 as it crosses the Conewago Creek.

Is Old Red Eyes actually Mothman - or an entity of the same type? Do the sightings foretell some sort of doom? The nature of the prophecies associated with Mothman - and indeed the nature of many of these cryptid/paranormal type sightings - is an element of the Trickster. There seems to be a twist or outright deception woven amongst any truths. The paranormal giveth with one hand and taketh with the other. It may be dangerous to guess what meaning the sightings have, if any, but multiple area witnesses have seen something strange indeed. Something which fits the description of Mothman.

For more on Old Red Eyes, South Central PA cryptids, ghosts, and other strange things, see Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Cryptid Creatures of South Central PA, Part III: The Hidebehind

Illustration by Timothy Renner - all rights reserved.

When the Europeans arrived in Pennsylvania the First Nations people warned them about following things through the woods and being followed through the woods. They were told of the strange lights - which we now know as orbs or will-o-the-wisps - and they were told not to follow these lights through the forest. To do so would bring misfortune. They were also warned of another creature which would stalk them through the trees - a thing which would become known as The Hidebehind. 

The Hidebehind was not the shy and retiring creature the name may suggest, but the most feared entity in the Pennsylvania forests. While no one could say for sure what The Hidebehind looked like - for none who saw it ever returned - its behaviors are well noted. It stayed just out of sight in the brush, peeking from the trees and pacing people through the woods. The Hidebehind hunted its human prey through the forest, creeping up behind them and taking the unexpected and unfortunate.

It was said only the bravest should be the last in line when traveling through the forest. For it was only the bravest souls who could be relied upon to never look behind as they walked. To look behind would spell your doom, for those that saw The Hidebehind were struck with fear and panic - and would surely be taken by the creature. So too would those who traveled the woods at night. The Hidebehind was dangerous at any time - but at night it became particularly deadly.

Those familiar with cryptids will recognize the stalking, tree-peeking, and pacing of people through the woods as bigfoot behavior. Indeed some places in Pennsylvania and others in the southern states do call bigfoot creatures by the name of The Hidebehind even today. It would be safe to say that The Hidebehind was a local name for a sasquatch - before the terms “bigfoot” and “sasquatch” became common currency.

In David Paulides Missing 411 series - wherein he documents many missing people, mostly from National Parks - he notes that a great many of the disappeared were the last in line of their party. Paulides also identifies certain clusters of missing people throughout North America. Yosemite and The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks, for instance, are identified as two of the largest clusters. The entire state of Pennsylvania is noted as another cluster. So, we have this supposedly folkloric creature, The Hidebehind who was noted by the First Nations people to snatch the last traveller in line … many years later we have Paulides reporting that people who are the last in line of their party are going missing in the wilderness. If it is a coincidence, it’s certainly very interesting. If it is not a coincidence then we may have answers as to what is taking some of the missing.

The original story I heard about our local Toad Road in York County - before all the crazy (and false) nonsense of burning insane asylums and mad doctors was a simple, haunting phrase: “Don’t look behind you on Toad Road.” This, along with the reports of things around Toad Road such as screams; tree-peeking; stalking; a man being attacked by a hairy monster etc - all connected the area to The Hidebehind and to older Pennsylvania folklore in general. 

If you want to know the true story of Toad Road and of cryptids, will-o-the-wisps, and other strange phenomena in South Central Pennsylvania, check out my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Upcoming appearances for Beyond the Seventh Gate

Upcoming appearances related to Beyond the Seventh Gate:

Wednesday September 23, 2016 (Actually Thursday morning September 24): I will be on Coast to Coast AM from 3:00 am - 5:00 am Eastern Time discussing the book and strangeness in South Central Pennsylvania.

Saturday September 24, 2016: I will be at East Coast Para Con in Scranton, PA selling and signing copies of Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Wednesday September 28, 2016: I will be on Arcane Radio discussing Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Saturday October 8, 2016: I will be at the Albatwitch Festival in Columbia, PA.

        • In the morning I will be playing music with my folk band, Stone Breath. We have a new album out soon called CRYPTIDS which is all about strange creatures, ghosts, and legends. Much of this album ties in with Beyond the Seventh Gate.

        • In the afternoon I will be giving a talk and presentation about strangeness in South Central Pennsylvania and Beyond the Seventh Gate.

        • All day - I will be selling and signing copies of my book, Stone Breath albums, Albatwitch shirts, art prints and more.

No date set: I will be appearing a second time on Sasquatch Chronicles podcast discussing the albatwitch and other "little people" with host, Wes, and frequent guest, Duke. This show should appear sometime soon.

I will be appearing on Paranormal Science radio discussing Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Cryptid Creatures of South Central PA, part II: The Albatwitch

Albatwitch illustration by the author. All rights reserved.

During my recent appearance on Sasquatch Chronicles podcast I mentioned my research on the albatwitch creatures of South Central Pennsylvania. I guess this must have struck a chord because I have been contacted by other researchers, a TV show and several individuals wanting to discuss the creatures ... while I see Wes (Sasquatch Chronicles) is planning an upcoming show on the “little people” - which is what the albatwitch seem to be known as further abroad.

So, what are the albatwitch? A quick search of the web will turn up some slight information: 3-5 foot tall, hairy ape-men who seem to be fond of apples and live around the Susquehanna River (most notably the Chickies Rock area - though albatwitches have been reported on the York County side of the river as well). Whatever these creatures are, they are not simply juvenile bigfoot - for they are never seen in conjunction with adult bigfoot. Albatwitch proportions are different as well - they are reported as thinner creatures, with arms and legs proportionately like humans; and with round heads that sit atop their shoulders (bigfoot are often reported as having “no neck” or a head that protrudes from the shoulders as opposed to sitting atop their shoulders like humans).

You will also read that “albatwitch” is some kind of Pennsylvania Dutch-ified English compound word for “apple-snitch” or apple-stealer. One must make some tremendous verbal leaps to get from “apple-snitch” all the way to albatwitch! That is, if you are thinking of “albatwitch” as an English word. Of course, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch in origin, but German - and German is still spoken by many people in the area. So, with help again from my German friend Moritz Maier, let’s look at some other possibilities… taking a passage from my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate:

The name, albatwitch, is commonly reported to be a Pennsylvania Dutchified compound word derived ultimately from English ‘applesnitch’, i.e. ‘apple-stealer’. However, alb is a German word for an ‘elf’ or spirit. Given the nature of the creatures, it seems at least as likely that albatwitch might be a mixed compound word, combining German ‘alb’ + English ‘witch’, i.e. ‘elf-witch’ or ‘spirit-witch’. Another possibility is that the word is derived from a combination of German ‘alb’ with Pennsylvania Dutch snitz - ‘snitz’ being a Pennsylvania Dutch term for apples. This would give the word the sense of ‘apple-elf’ or ‘apple-spirit’.

Since publishing, Moritz has turned up some more information for me: there is an obscure German verb witschen which describes an agile, quick, gliding type movement. (Interesting to note how bigfoot locomotion is often described as “gliding” - people describe them moving somewhat like cross-country skiers.) Probably related to witschen is the more common German verb entwishen - “to escape”. Alb-witschen or Alb-entwishen would give us a agile, quick or escaping elf/spirit. Keeping the entire word German, ALBWITSCHEN or ALBENTWISHEN  seem far more likely a root for “albatwitch” than either my “alb-snitz” and “alb-witch” guesses above OR the commonly reported “apple-snitch” you will find elsewhere.

The Susquehannock Indians knew well of the albatwitch, and painted images of the creatures on their war shields. The Algonquin also told of small hairy hominid creatures known as Megumoowesoos. Like the Celtic fairies, Megumoowesoos were said to lure people into the woods with wonderful music. Bewitched by the sound of the creatures’ flutes, many who heard and followed the flute songs disappeared. Here again we have the recurring idea of a creature (or other phenomenon) either luring people into the woods, or else taking people already in the woods, with the people in either case never being seen again.

The albatwitches were said to live mostly in the trees. Preferring to keep to the shadows, they made their presence known by a sound like a cracking whip (perhaps this is aggressive branch-breaking, a well known bigfoot trait?). Picnickers at Chickies Rock have reported their apples stolen and sometimes even thrown back at them. 

I go on to present three modern albatwitch encounters in the book. Two from the general area of Chickies Rock and one from just outside of Red Lion, Pennsylvania in York County. Encounters with these creatures - whether in South Central Pennsylvania or abroad - seem to be exceedingly rare. By contrast I have nearly 50 bigfoot encounters from South Central PA in the book.

On a recent episode of Sasquatch Chronicles, Wes Germer reports that these creatures are called “little people” by modern Native Americans and have been reported all over the country. They are very quick, mischievous, and aggressive if cornered. This reported aggressive nature of the creatures makes one wonder if some of the encounters with so-called Devil Monkeys are not, in actuality, albatwitch encounters. While we are speculating: perhaps another look at the Jacobs Photos is due - this time with the albatwitch in mind. Bigfoot creatures don’t tend to get caught on trail cams - they seem to understand in some way what they are and how to avoid them. Perhaps albatwitch, though much rarer, are easier to catch on film?

Local legend states that the albatwitch were “hunted to extinction” in the 1800s… however, with area sightings as recent as 2008 it seems the reports of the albatwitches’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.

My albatwitch illustration above is available as a t-shirt ... contact me directly to order, or see the Lost Grave Etsy Store.

If you have seen something like an albatwitch, bigfoot, or anything else strange or unusual in the area, please contact SEEKERS and report your sighting.